If you're occupying Colorado land that actually belongs to another party, you may be able to acquire title to the property through adverse possession -- but only under certain conditions. Adverse possession, also known as squatters rights, provides the opportunity to claim that the landlord's acceptance of your presence is a sign that you are the property's rightful owner. However, it may be more difficult to succeed in your claim now than in the past. In 2008, Colorado state law was changed to tighten the occupancy requirements and increase the burden of proof threshold on those making claims under these statutes.
Possession and Intent
To make an adverse possession claim, you first must have actual possession of the property. This means that you have physical control over the property itself, even though the title may belong to another. You may not claim adverse possession on property in a different location.
A hostile intent toward the owner's rights to the property must also be present. This does not mean that you must actively fight against the owner, just that you occupy the land without his permission. Possession must be open and notorious, so that anyone stopping by the property would view you as the rightful owner. You must demonstrate that you believe the property is rightfully yours and that you intend to legally claim title. Constructing improvements on the property can help show your intent to take over long-term possession.
Exclusive and Uninterrupted Use
You also must have exclusive possession of the property over the time period in question. Sharing possession with another party does not qualify, even if the other party has no connection to the landlord.
Your possession must be uninterrupted for 18 years before you can claim title through adverse possession. Any interruption in occupancy will start the 18-year period over again. You don't have to stay on the property 24 hours a day, but you must continue to use it on a regular basis. You also must pay taxes on the property for at least seven years.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is on the claimant to show that he has met all of the requirements of adverse possession. Prior to 2008, only a "preponderance of the evidence" was needed to satisfy the burden of proof. Under this standard, the claim would be upheld as long as it was more probable to be valid than invalid. The burden of proof has since been changed to "clear and convincing evidence," which requires a high probability that the claim is valid. This standard can make it difficult to claim adverse possession, as these types of cases may be based on circumstantial evidence of occupancy rather than indisputable facts.